If you did a random survey of 100 people and asked, “Who was the most destructive man in history?” you’d get a variety of answers, I’m sure. Adolf Hitler. Pol Pot. The guy who invented Twinkies. But I’d be shocked if any of those people would even know Thomas Midgley’s name, let alone the havoc he wreaked on the world.
Thomas Midgley, Jr. was the guy who invented the lead additive in gasoline, despite the fact that lead poisoning had been around for a long time before that. Given that knowledge, it’s anybody’s guess why he thought that would be a good idea.
He was also on the ground floor for the invention of CFCs, known by most of us as Freon. He really thought he was doing us a favor, but the planet will never be the same. The responsibility for the hole in the ozone layer can be laid squarely upon this man’s shoulders.
He actually had over a hundred patents in his name, and I’m sure some of those were just dandy. He certainly won his fair share of awards at the time. But his legacy will always be two of the most environmentally destructive substances ever created, and even a lifetime of good works couldn’t possibly undo that.